After a long and distinguished career, the “doyen of British cellists” is calling it quits.
Julian Lloyd Webber yesterday announced that he has been forced to stop playing due to a herniated disc in his neck.
“I am devastated. There were so many exciting plans that cannot now come to fruition,” said Lloyd Webber. “I have had an immensely fulfilling career and feel privileged to have worked with so many great musicians and orchestras but now I have to move on.”
The cellist, age 63, won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music aged 16 but completed subsequent studies with Pierre Fournier in Geneva. Just ten years later, he made his professional debut at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London.
While he has performed worldwide with leading musicians including Yehudi Menuhin, Sir Georg Solti, Stéphane Grappelli, Lloyd Webber is most well known for his recording of the Elgar Cello Concerto which was chosen the finest ever version by the BBC Music Magazine. He has also premiered over 50 works by composers including Eric Whitacre, Philip Glass and Malcolm Arnold.
While most minor spinal disc herniations heal within several weeks, severe cases require medical intervention. Such injuries are common amongst performers, as almost most musical instruments require the body to respond in an unnatural manner. Physical problems and repetitive motion injuries like tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and myofascial pain syndrome are most prevalent.
David Shulman, a physical therapist in Baltimore with experience in performance rehabilitation says that most musicians play through pain because they don’t understand the potential long-term danger. “They’re also in a bad position,” he says. “[A musician] can’t stop lessons. You certainly can’t stop in the middle of a performance because your forearm feels tingly or your pinkie doesn’t work. Your career is on the line, so you push your limits.”
While Lloyd Webber’s solo performance career may have come to an end, he has no intention of enduring a forced retirement. Alongside his commitments as a soloist, the cellist is devoted to music education in the United Kingdom. In 2003, he founded the Music Education Consortium, a pressure group that facilitated the redirection of government funds to music education. He also began the government’s In Harmony program.
“I would like to use the knowledge I have gained through my life as a musician and an educator to give back as much as I can to the music profession which has given me so much over the years,” Lloyd Webber said in his press release.
The cellist, who only last month was presented with the 2013 Distinguished Musician Award by the Incorporated Society of Musicians for his services to music education, will give his final performance with the English Chamber Orchestra in May. His final two recordings, with the European Union Chamber Orchestra and with the English Chamber Orchestra, will be released later this year.